I love sharing people’s stories. It’s one of the reasons I started writing in the first place. While I started My Beautiful Mess as a place to tell my story and my truth, I often hear the phenomenal stories of others that just can’t keep to myself. A Day in the Life will feature people who have been kind enough to open up their lives and inspire me in some way. I have a feeling their stories will do the same for you.
One of the greatest hindrances to creativity is time. Shannon Swope, a busy wife and mother of two, knows this better than most. A few weeks ago I visited Shannon’s home and got to spend some time in her studio learning more about her art.
For years Shannon watched her mother, an art teacher, practicing one of her many disciplines of fused glass. Shannon always loved her mother’s fused glass artwork and thought that she’d like to give it a try but, like so many of us, kept putting it off. Having always enjoyed art and creative expression, her desire to be creative finally won. “I put it off, put it off, put it off until it got to the point where I thought just do it or quit thinking that you’re going to do it!” she explains.
Shannon starting off experimenting with just a few materials, making pieces for herself. Then she got asked to do a big project for a local company that involved creating dozens of fused glass buttons. Shortly after diving in, Shannon felt overwhelmed, thinking, Why did I say I was going to do this? I’m not creative enough. What if people don’t like what I’ve made? But she fulfilled her commitment and in the end said that it was a positive challenge because it pushed her out of her comfort zone, allowing her to discover some new techniques along the way.
Her next big undertaking was the 36 by 36 Project. Shannon’s goal was to create 36 pieces of glass work by the time she turned 36 years old, donating all the money raised to organizations and projects that she was interested in. “I got the idea from a woman who did 50 pottery pieces by the time she was 50 and gave all the money to the food bank. I thought it was a really cool idea,” she says, “I think it’s fulfilling to sell things, but I think it’s just as fulfilling to be able to do something and share it with someone.” Through the 36 by 36 Project people saw Shannon’s work and asked her to make custom pieces. She started to venture out and make bigger things.
As she’s received more requests for custom pieces, finding the time has become increasingly difficult. “Sometimes I don’t think I make enough time,” Shannon admits, “You have to kind of force yourself or otherwise it won’t happen.” Her secret? Spending time in her garage studio after her exercise class, when she’s already hot and sweaty. It’s also easy to squeeze in time while her kids are playing outside and she can work in the garage and still be near them. “I feel like when you’re dong something creative it takes a little while to get in your groove. In the past, before even starting glass, I didn’t ever give myself a fair chance. I would do something creative and then I would not do it for very long. I feel like you have to stay in that space in some capacity, even if it’s other classes.” Right now Shannon is enrolled in a local pastel class. She’s found that the principles of the class can be applied to all mediums.
When asked if she still struggles with feelings of inadequacy in her artwork, Shannon nods slowly. “I really enjoy it, but it’s really a vulnerable thing to share it with someone because there is the possibility that they won’t like it or reject it or not appreciate it like you want it to be seen,” she explains, “What’s helping me overcome that is the whole idea that any talent that I have isn’t my own ability but maybe God can just use me to show beauty in a different way. So that takes the pressure off a little.” In glass artwork there are mistakes, things bubble in the firing process or chip and break along the way, but these experiences have reminded Shannon that beauty can come out of what seems like failure.
Faith is both Shannon’s greatest comfort and her greatest inspiration. “I love bright colors and big cities and nature, so I think doing creative things has helped me to see God in more places. I see Him even in something as simple as a cloud, all the colors and in three-dimension. When you’re inspired by something like that you feel like wow, God just spoke this into being and I, with my best efforts, can not recreate it.”
Fused glass artwork has taught Shannon a lot about how she is gifted, areas that she is still growing, and how God is at the center of it all. “I’m learning that it doesn’t have to be like everyone else’s but people can inspire us, and it doesn’t have to be perfect. I feel like I’m fighting those perfectionist tendencies a lot, so it’s good for me. There’s a great saying that only God makes perfect. There are things that I think are a disaster that people love, so you never know.”
I left my time with Shannon feeling truly inspired. Her questions and hesitations are similar to ones I have encountered with my art. Shannon reminded me how rewarding it can be to try something new, that it’s important to stay in your creative space, and to remember that whatever I do won’t be perfect but it will be beautiful, especially in the eyes of the ultimate Artist.